Thursday, March 31, 2016

Playhouse staff visit local elementary & middle schools

Wolf Pit Elementary School students perform original takes on Charlotte's Web

By Don Rebar

Associate Director of Marketing

Teaching artist Jennifer Katona
leads students in discussion.
Nearly fifty students from Norwalk's Wolf Pit Elementary School wrote, staged and acted in their own versions of E.B. White's Charlotte's Web, as the culmination of an in-school theater workshop led by Playhouse teaching artists Mina Hartong & Jennifer Katona.

After reading and discussing the full book in the classroom, fifth grade students in Mrs. McAuley's and Mrs. Panagiotidis' classrooms explored the art of theater through basic theater exercises in improvisation, cooperation, playwriting and acting skills. They then wrote plays which reflected their original takes on the story, and began rehearsing their versions of Wilbur, Charlotte, Fern and the rest of Mr. Zuckerman's farm.

Wolf Pit students take a bow following
their presentations in the Sheffer Studio.
These plays were presented in front of a packed house of parents, families and teachers in the Playhouse's Sheffer Studio in the Lucille Lortel White Barn Center, before the 4pm Family Festivities performance of Charlotte's Web. Following their own productions, students watched professional actors from Theatreworks U.S.A. present their musical adaptation in the Jason Robards Theater.

For many of these fifth grade students, this workshop offered a first taste of the benefits that theater arts activities can offer, such as improved confidence, self-esteem and creative writing skills. We hope to continue working with schools in our community and sharing our love of theater with young students in the days to come.

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Read Across America at Coleytown Elementary School

By Don Rebar

Associate Director of Marketing

On Wednesday, March 2, the Playhouse joined with nearly 45 million Americans to celebrate Read Across America, a nationwide event intended to promote children's literacy.

The Playhouse had the good fortune of teaming up with the amazing students & teachers at Coleytown Elementary School for this nationwide day of reading. As the Playhouse's representative, I had a wonderful time reading P.D. Eastman's beloved Are You My Mother? with kindergarten & 3rd grade classes at the Westport school.

When I arrived at the school, I was warmly greeted by school librarian & Read Across America coordinator Maggie Parkhurst, who walked me to Ms. Deering's classroom, where her kindergarteners were sitting in a circle, discussing several Dr. Seuss books that they had previoulsy read. We were shortly joined by Mrs. Hawkins' 3rd grade class, who served as 'big brothers & sisters' for the younger students.

As we traveled through the illustrated pages of P.D. Eastman's classic tale, we had great fun following Baby Bird on his journey to find his mother. Between pages, the students excitedly voiced the sounds that each character made (the baby bird's 'tweet', the kitten's 'meow' and - our absolute favorite - the power shovel's loud 'SNORT'). Afterwards, the students discussed their favorite Are You My Mother? characters and their reactions to the book.

As someone who spends the majority of their time behind the scenes at the Playhouse, it really was a great pleasure to meet & play with these exciting, thoughtful students - all while sharing the virtues of reading. So, a huge thank you once again to Maggie Parkhurst, Ms. Deering, Mrs. Hawkins and the kindergarten & 3rd grade classes at Coleytown Elementary!

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Minds in Motion at Bedford Middle School

By Samantha Goober

Artistic & Management Associate

On Saturday, March 19th I had the pleasure of attending Westport’s Minds in Motion event as a workshop leader. I spent the afternoon at Westport’s Bedford Middle School, playing theater games and having a ton of fun with some local kindergartners and first graders.

I taught two hour-long classes, each with nine energetic students who had a clear eagerness to learn and an excitement about theater. Titled “Theater in Motion”, my classes focused on movement and games, where the kids were able to embrace their inner monkey or kangaroo, learn about stage directions through a special game of “Simon Says”, and even create stories of their own. I’m honestly not sure who had more fun, myself or the kids.

I was also lucky enough to be joined by a special assistant during my second class, Westport 4th grader Jojo Treisman. After hour-long sessions of dancing and moving and acting it out, the kids somehow left class with energy to spare. Attending Minds in Motion was a great experience, and I hope to be able to represent the Playhouse at next year’s event.

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